US Politicos Take 5G Bandwagon Down Dangerous Path
The anti-Huawei rhetoric, already at fever pitch in the US and having an impact abroad, appears to be ramping up even further. There's talk now of another new plan to kick-start a homegrown alternative to Chinese 5G and 6G R&D, a move seemingly supported by such big names as Dell, Microsoft and AT&T.
Behind the blustering and ill-judged proclamations of politicians courting support from corporate backers and voters ahead of the next election, though, is the potential dismantling of decades of work, rather than the construction of a new dynasty. As my colleagues Iain Morris and Mike Dano have pointed out, the danger here is that the global communications networking sector -- which despite its many factions is probably more united now than at any other time since cellular comms hit the market thanks to industry-wide support for 5G specs -- could break down into an Us (ironic) vs Them scenario that would fracture the market, destroy economies of scale and slow down industrial development.
Not only would the telecom sector be harmed by such a bifurcation, but all the other industrial verticals now pinning their future hopes on next generation networking technologies would also be hampered. It would be bad for everyone.
But no one is saying, "Don't invest in US companies." Quite the opposite: Any catalyst to attract more investment into the US tech sector would be welcome, right? There are plenty of sectors within the telco market where greater competition is needed.
But R&D can't be plucked out of the air. The reason Huawei is firmly embedded in many mobile networks around the world is not because it's a sneaky cheat that lowballed the market: It's because it has been offering high-quality technology at very competitive prices. Ask the companies that have spent money with it. Yes, Huawei has engaged in dubious activities over the years, as have (let's not forget) other companies (and it's all been reported, it's all out there…), but these are not the important issues right now, no matter what some suit with access to a microphone might say.
The bottom line here is that any efforts to improve the competitive position of the US technology sector needs to be done with a long-term vision (not short-term point-scoring) in mind and in a way that supports the standards and specifications efforts of globally supported institutions and organizations. Some of the current suggestions, such as the one being communicated by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, might provide great opportunities for some companies -- Dell, for example, would love to sell more server platforms that could host virtualized, disaggregated network functions while Microsoft would love to host those servers and functions in its public cloud facilities. But there's also the prospect they would ultimately harm other US companies, which might find themselves with a shrinking market, no longer as global and open as it is now.
It would be a different matter if the roots of such suggestions were positive and not underpinned by political motivations -- then we might see some joined-up thinking.
Let's hope common sense prevails and that informed voices are heard and taken into account. Balkanization is the road to ruin. Let's not drive the industry down that route.
For more on this, see:
- AT&T, Microsoft, Others Get Behind Trump's Anti-Huawei Agenda
- A 6G Arms Race May Define the 2020s
- Tough UK limits on Huawei's role in 5G threaten telco plans
- Vietnam makes big bet on homegrown 5G
- Ericsson, Huawei & Nokia Are Facing an 'Oil Crisis' Upheaval
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading